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Brexit: How Will This Impact Upon The Family Court User?
We've been speaking to the legal experts at Swindon-based firm Bevirs who are going to be keeping an eye on how leaving the EU will affect different areas of the law. Today, we talk to a Michelle Bowyer and how the changes will impact a Family Court user.
The Brussels IIa Regulation provides the system for establishing jurisdiction in relation to divorce, separation and annulment. Essentially, when proceedings have been commenced in one EU state, other member states must refuse jurisdiction. These regulations also permit EU citizens to commence proceedings in the member state of their choice (subject to habitual residence/place of domicile) and the divorce or annulment is currently automatically recognized by other EU states. If extraction from this regulation is not carefully managed, potential parties to a divorce or annulment may find themselves in a race to the court in which they feel they will get the “better” deal. We currently see this with matrimonial breakdown involving those across the pond.
The Maintenance Regulations establishes a reciprocal recognition of maintenance orders made within EU member states. Therefore, as EU citizens we currently benefit from the protection of all EU member states recognizing and potentially enforcing orders made in the family courts in England and Wales. These orders are often made in favour of parents and therefore, a loss of this protection could have a profound impact upon families.
The Brussels IIa Regulation imposes recognition of child arrangement orders which reflect with whom children should live and the level of contact they have with their other parent. Whilst there is separate protection against abduction under the 1980 Hague convention (where signatories are not limited to the EU but extend to all countries who choose to participate); the protection offered under the Brussels IIa Regulation goes even further in prohibiting member states from making a “non-return” order. Without this protection a European parent can ignore a child arrangement made in England and Wales potentially remove the child and secure a “non-return” order in the alternative jurisdiction.
Extraction from the European conventions and regulations will not be a simple process. This is only a brief synopsis of the protection currently afforded to EU citizens: to families and children who find themselves in the unenviable predicament of family breakdown.
These are uncertain times for court users but until the strategy for extraction from the EU has been established, we will continue to benefit from these fundamental rights.